Have you ever been to a Native American Sweat Lodge ceremony? I had not known what to expect when I signed up for this, but some hours later I found myself sitting around a fire in a tent sweating for 3 hours straight surrounded by strangers on drugs. Sober. And this is how it started:My morning was quite relaxed. I had fed the chicken, cleaned the kitchen and happily managed to convince my boss to let me paint signs instead of gardening for the next few weeks. I walked towards the kitchen and chopped up some coconuts when Keyana came along with her cute accent I could not understand.
“Wanna join a suuuauau tonaaaaaight?”
I couldn’t understand a thing. Party because of her accent- party because of the cava roots I had been chewing on. My boss had found some on the property and given one to me. They make you feel really chilled, but at the same time incredibly slow….
“Yes, I’m in!” I heard myself say.
What was I thinking? Well, I guess I just didn’t want to miss out.
By the time the sun set we (Keyana, Patrick her boyfriend, Hans, the funny German, and me) jumped into the back of a Pickup Truck and drove off to a Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony.
I had never heard of anything like that, neither had I researched anything, but was excited to go.
In the back of the truck Hans tried to explain the basic concept of sweat lodges to me, but the wind was blowing so strong I could barely understand him. Around thirty minutes later we arrived at a house in the middle of a forest. The sun had set and through the darkness I could see warmly illuminated windows. There were around forty people inside. The house was packed with hippies. Extreme characters, friendly and interesting. Good people.
An old woman was walking around the house with a small basket in her hands. She had long white hair and was giving away perfectly rolled blunts and freshly baked cookies. I looked around and saw massive amounts of cake. Oh My! I was SO hungry! Unfortunately I was not allowed to eat yet. We sat on the floor as someone passed an old cup with some strange liquid inside. Whilst I grabbed the cup I looked up and saw an old woman in the kitchen stirring some kind of soup. She threw some pieces of a green cactus in.
“What is this?” I asked.
“It’s medicine. It’s beautiful.” someone answered me with a smile that was way too big.
Alright. Why not- I figured. Medicine will at least not kill me I figured whilst emptying my cup…
Shortly after everybody went outside. There was a huge garden surrounded by pine trees and a small tent in the middle. In front of the tent was a bonfire, around which we formed a circle. A man entered the sweat lodge with a shovel and fuming hot, large, round lava stones on it. He was walking around us whilst another man was fanning smoke around my head to then knock a feather on the back of my head.
I had no idea what was going on, but everyone was so into it. I tried to focus, but this was so strange I was really trying to stay serious. Hans told me that I am now freed from any bad vibes and that I can be happy now as soon as the Peyote kicks in.
I had once read a book about that. My father had bought it in the 70s and the one thing I now remembered was the main character peeing himself after taking in this hallucinogenic Peyote cactus.
.. Well this was going to be interesting. Less did I know at that point that I was going to be the only person, the Peyote actually had no effect on.
Which made me reflect this experience in a REALLY strange way!
People started to crawl inside the sweat lodge. Hans was one of the first and jumped right in. I followed the remaining forty people inside. Just to make that clear: This tent was small, meaning those forty people all had to touch each other whilst sitting inside somehow. Aaaargh- this is something I am terrible at. Touching people – I don’t know – makes me go crazy when I don’t know them. Touching people who are sweating … nope! Not getting any better.
“… in the womb of the woman…” I heard someone shout repeatedly whilst the last people crawled inside.
Eeeew…. I am IN a womb. Was I the only one who found this gross?
Yes, Apparently I was.
The guy with the shovel came back and put hot lava stones in the middle of the sweat lodge.
“… the semen of the man enters”
Eeeeew …. Why?
“Act normal Denise. You are in the womb of a woman- behave now!” I told myself. What the fuck had I gotten myself into. You can’t be part of a sweat lodge ceremony on hippy level 1. And this was some advanced shit, I can tell you.
It started to get really hot inside.
Forty sweaty people.
Forty sweaty singing people.
Oh no. Please no. No singing. I don’t understand the lyrics. The tent is dark- all I can see are three round glowing stones in the middle of the tent. Someone pours water over them. I am sweating so much I thought I would dissolve into the ground. Had I mentioned that the ceremony was about to last three hours?
Well, I had two hours and forty minutes to go. New stones were brought inside the tent and I craved those two seconds of fresh air whilst the door opened. People started to make weird noises and I realised that I am the only sober person in this tent. I guess this Peyote God had read my thoughts and not accepted me into his holy circle.
People started to thank the universe for everything. Everyone could bring some thoughts in and no matter what was said- everybody always answered with
Always. And there was some funny stuff in between. Hahahaha.
“I am so thankful for the earth I’m sitting on and everybody inside this wonderful tent who shares this experience with me”
Nope. Actually. Nope. Not true. Here- me- Denise- S O B E R. Not sharing at the moment. Just sweating.
“I am grateful for the sweat.” I heard someone say.
Are you kidding me…??
And this was just the start. Apparently we had angels inside the tent everyone could see except for me…
Two hours to go!! Oh my God!! I was so B O R E D. And I couldn’t leave, because everybody was sitting so close to each other, I would have ruined the whole ceremony trying to get out. The only chance I had, was to fall asleep and wake up when it’s over.
I have to tell you here that I am the master of falling asleep anywhere, whether it’s in a bus standing and sleeping on my own arm that grabs the bar at the ceiling or in a tent with forty sweaty people.
“I could do it!!” I told myself as I slowly snoozed into dreamland…
…. someone shouted whilst throwing water in my face. What the ….?!? Are you fucking kidding …
“It’s angel water” someone whispered.
“Aaaaaah. Lovely” I heard people murmur.
“Oh my God. Are you f***** kidding me?”. Damn your angel water. I was just about ….
The next lava stones entered the tent and Round 3 began. At this point I wished I could have felt some of this Peyote as I was bored to death. I know this whole experience can be awesome and holy and life changing, but not for me at this point. I wanted to get out.
And then finally… the door opened and we crawled outside. But it wasn’t over yet as everybody was forming a circle around the bonfire again. I was one of the first people to get out and then …
…everybody hugged each other whilst forming that circle. I had to hug forty sweaty people. I was not ready for that HUG and even after the first one I was not ready to touch some sweaty person HUG again… Eeew. I can’t even touch friends on the couch whilst watching TV HUG …. Oh my God I am dying!!! …after number 39 it was done and everyone went back inside the house.
“Holy shit. That was intense,” I thought whilst grabbing a huge piece of cake.
On our way home I was looking at Patrick who was driving a bit weirdly and asked him whether he could see the road…
“Sure, I can”, he answered.
“It has A M A Z I N G colours.”